The Arduino is an open source prototyping board. The system is powered by an ATMega128 processor and takes serial input over USB or bluetooth. It’s programmable in a subset of C and has an open source IDE for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Essentially anything that has electrical input/output can be hooked up to one of these things. For example the Ambient Orb is just bright red, green and blue LEDs under a light diffuser in a glass dome. By using the processor to alter the brightness of each LED any colour can be produced.
What I find exciting is these prototyping boards cost relatively little money (roughly £18 for the USB version) but can be used to make all kinds of DIY electronics possible. To use the ambient orb example again, rather than the $150 plus shipping from the states that the ‘real’ one costs it can be made for as little as £30 by anyone who is bright enough to follow some instructions from the internet. Not only that but the homebrew version can be used display any data, because it has been built Open Source from the ground up.
Yahoo have their London office on South East tip of Soho. Sometimes I like to get a coffee in one of the better Soho coffee shops. While I can’t complain about the coffee (just the opposite actually) sometimes I’m a little disappointed about the lack of a startup hacker community that is available to me. It’s not like there is a shortage of internet companies in the area with Osmosoft, MSN, Tiscalli, and others in the area.
Is London just too big to have a community where I’m going to bump into other web geeks? People talk about the Valley and the Bay Area like it’s a Mecca for tech and web cultures, is that really true? While I know plenty of people I can arrange to have coffee with, and often do, I just want more chance encounters.
So here is my line in the sand. I like the Milk Bar on Bateman Street in Soho. There isn’t free open wifi (yet) but there is a BT Openzone. It’s the sister site of Flat White so the coffee is awesome. Like Flat White it’s run by Aussies so the atmosphere is trendy and funky. London, especially Soho, geeks make this your coffee shop. Let’s have more random chance encounters because we choose to commune in a place we can make our community.
Update: Funny I should write this in the morning on the tube and then find this post with some thoughts about Cities by Paul Graham in the afternoon.